Actors Pierre Png and Koh Chieng Mun, stars of the hit Hollywood movie Crazy Rich Asians, recently spoke at an AXA IM event in Singapore. The Singaporeans gave their views on longevity, describing the highlights of their long careers, the health issues they have overcome, and why to them retirement is a “dirty word”.
Playing a lead character, Dolly, in the popular Singapore sitcom Under One Roof made Koh Chieng Mun a household name. “Dolly is somebody who is in the hearts and minds of most Singaporeans,” she told the audience of investors and asset managers.
“In many cases, actresses get hung up about playing an older role, especially a mother. When I started Under One Roof, I was in my 30s. Now I’m nearly 60.”
Chieng Mun attributed the length of her career – which started in 1990 – to passion. She said: “When you do something, you must always know what is needed, and then you do all that you know with 100% passion. You really have to inject 100% of what you know into your work, 100% passion and 100% heart.”
I think investing in yourself is key
Pierre Png, who like Chieng Mun starred alongside Michelle Yeoh in the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians, added: “I feel longevity in any industry is harder, not just in entertainment. I think investing in yourself is key.
“It’s about investing in yourself, believing in yourself, making sure that you are up to date.”
Pierre is known for several Chinese language television dramas and an award-winning role in The Journey: A Voyage, which follows the journey of first-generation Chinese immigrants who seek their fortune in Singapore. He said that role, as well as playing the part of a mentally-challenged young man in a show called Portrait of Home, were the characters that have enjoyed the most longevity.
He said: “Those two characters are still remembered until today. When I talk about them, I remember them, and I know how much effort I put in just to play those two characters. So much so, that these two characters have overtaken the first character that I was remembered for, Puah Chu Beng. These two characters actually mean a lot to me.”
Longevity “means health”
Both actors have been though health challenges – Chieng Mun was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She said: “I came out of it. I’m still a survivor and I’m very, very grateful that I can still have a normal life. Every day when I wake up in the morning, I check myself: ‘Am I normal?’, and then, I’m very, very, very grateful. I think the Lord has blessed me with coming back and being able to do everything that I like to do . This motivates me to keep going.”
To enjoy a long and happy live, Chieng Mun advised: “You have to take care of yourself physically.
“I work on my core and my back because I’m already 60 so you know those are the parts of the body that will cause trouble me if I don’t take care of it.”
Financially, you need to pace yourself carefully
She continued: “And then of course you have to take care of yourself mentally. I think that mental health is very, very important. Of course, financially, you need to pace yourself carefully, so that you can last well into your years without too much worry.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a health plan that gave me a good payout, so I did not have the problem of worrying about my medical bills. I think that contributes to getting better, in case you get any problems with your health. I think longevity means the idea of having a good life well into your 60s, 70s, 80s – now they say you’re going to live until 120 – so do make sure that all those things are in place.”
Read more: Is the planet ready for 100-year olds?
Pierre’s wife Andrea De Cruz, who was also an actor, suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and needed a transplant – for which Pierre was the donor.
“Longevity I think is subjective,” Pierre said. “It depends on how long you want to live. It depends on how well you want to live. I think longevity for me means nothing if I’m not happy. So, for however long I live, I want to be happy.
“For me, longevity means I am healthy, it means the people around me are well or if they’re not well, at least they’re well taken care off. So, longevity means a lot to different people, but for me, longevity means being able to work, being able to be happy, being able to spread that happiness.”
Retirement is a “dirty word”
Financial security to pay for a longer life is also important to Chieng Mun. She said. “When I was working and the opportunity to make money, I made sure that I had a retirement fund and worked toward it,” she explained. “I will always lead a simple life. If I cannot afford it, I won’t buy it. I don’t like to go into a situation where I’m short of cash and I don’t know what to do with my finances.
“Take care of your fundamentals and with the money that you have, look into how you can have further gain.”
Thinking about retirement, Pierre said: “My retirement plan or my long-term plan is to work towards coming up with good scripts, coming up with good work – be more in control of the things that I do or the roles that I accept. So, longevity in that sense has got to be more self-fulfilling and I think I would love to achieve that happiness, not just mentally but physically, and most importantly, spiritually.”
Chieng Mun told the audience: “I think retirement is a dirty word. I am not going to retire! As an actress, I will go on because the shelf life of an actress really means that you can act till the day you die.”
Watch: What if you live to 100?